My review of ‘100ne Hundred’ by Laura Besley

I stopped doing reviews a while back but when I was asked by Saira at Arachne Press to review Laura’s collection, I didn’t hesitate. Flash fiction is my favourite form of creative writing and Laura is a regular, often successful, entrant to my monthly 100-word competition so two reasons to say ‘yes’.

Split into four seasons, each section contains 25 stories, some of which are familiar territory but most new to me.

I love titles, especially quirky ones, and ones like ‘How to be Normal’, ‘Raining Colours’, ‘The Pupa Stage in the Lifecycle of Audrey Brown’, and ‘Housewife 500’ were ones I was especially looking forward to… and they didn’t disappoint.

Speaking of quirky, although I know Laura’s writing well, I challenge anyone (not for money!) not to be hooked on the opening of the first story: Dave carries his girlfriend in the left-hand breast pocket of his shirt. 

It’s a very emotional collection. As a competition judge (for others, not just my own) the best stories tend to be ones where you have a reaction at the end. A ‘huh?’ is not good and it goes from there all the way to ‘wow’. With this collection I soon lost track of how many ‘wow’s I was uttering to the point where my dog had that ‘here she goes again’ look.

The stories take us to various points around the globe but one thing that links them all is humanity. I love characters, and while most stories are understandably plot-led, there is a wealth of characters we can relate to, even if they’re nothing like us, or we’ve not been through what they’ve been through – for that we should be thankful!

Some films started life as short stories (The Shawshank Redemption and Brokeback Mountain to name two) and while Laura’s are incredibly short, many lent themselves to being the start or plot of a larger work. There are unions, reunions, meetings and greetings, thought-provoking pieces, and those simply there to entertain.

Although I read this collection in one sitting, it’s the kind you could dip in an out of and let these stories linger, returning for a second, third and umpteenth read.

I’d love to share with you my favourites but there were simply too many, although one in particular made me chuckle as a character loves his Alexa (Amazon Echo device) even more than I do.

As well as being a competition judge, I’m an editor. While I would have made very minor tweaks had this been something sent to me for editing (e.g. sighing isn’t a dialogue verb so should be a separate sentence to what’s said, some words hyphenated or unhyphenated, a ‘his’ changed to the character’s name where another of the same gender has just been mentioned, I’d have chopped some ‘said’s where the character’s doing something, and some of the ‘just’s 🙂 ), the stories are written to such a tight (100 words exactly) format that losing a word or two would have meant ‘padding’ to return to the correct figure.

I had high expectations and was not disappointed, as I’m sure you won’t be when you read this wonderful collection. It was published on 27th May 2021, so hot off the (Arachne) press! Available from https://arachnepress.com/books/short-stories/100nehundred-laura-besleyand where good books are sold, as the saying goes (ISBN: 978-1913665272). Laura can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

My thanks go to Saira and of course Laura, not only for creating this endearing collection but for being one of the many stalwarts of my competition.

*

Laura

About Laura Besley: Laura Besley writes short fiction in the precious moments when her children are asleep. She has been listed by TSS Publishing as one of the top 50 British and Irish Flash Fiction writers. Her work has been nominated for Best Micro Fiction and her story, To Cut a Long Story Short, will appear in the Best Small Fiction anthology in 2021. 100neHundred is Laura’s second short fiction collection.

 

About 100neHundred: A man carries his girlfriend in the left-hand breast pocket of his shirt. During World War II, a young soldier searches the houses and barns of the families with whom he grew up. An astronaut wonders whether she can adapt to life back on earth.

In her second collection of short fiction, Laura Besley explores a kaleidoscope of emotions through 100 stories of exactly 100 words each.

SADM 2018 – Day 30: Change your Point of View

http://storyaday.org/day-30-change-your-point-of-view

Julie says: After setting you free yesterday, I’m putting a few more limits on you again today.

The prompt: Take a story that you wrote earlier this month, and tell it from a different point of view

The point of this prompt is to show you that sometimes a story benefits from being told in a different way. Noir stories work in first person because that’s what we’re used to. Something set in a Victorian era works well in Third Person Omniscient because that’s how Dickens wrote–it’s what we’re used to.

Use this prompt as an excuse to play with a story and make it richer, through voice.

Go!

And me? Sadly, I’m not doing the challenge this year (too busy) but do leave a comment below to let me know how you do.

SADM 2018 – Day 29: The Story You’ve Been Waiting To Write

Not a lot of today left… sorry about that!

http://storyaday.org/day-29-the-story-youve-been-waiting-to-write

Julie says: I know you have stories you want to tell, that the world needs to hear.

Your experiences, your outlook, your way of expressing yourself, are unique in the history of the world and I’m so glad you’ve come this far, and you’re still writing.

And I know you’re going to continue to write, because you’ve come this far.

Today I’m giving you a prompt that might seem a little lazy from me, but there’s a reason.

The Prompt: Write the story that you’ve been hungering to write.

I’ve been very proscriptive this month, telling you what you write, and you’ve been writing for four weeks. You’ve got stories in your head that are nipping at your brain, whispering “tell me!”, so today I’m setting you free.

Tell one of those stories.

Go!

And me? Sadly, I’m not doing the challenge this year (too busy) but do leave a comment below to let me know how you do.

SADM 2018 – Day 28: Use These Words

http://storyaday.org/day-28-use-these-words

Julie says: This is the kind of writing prompt that puts so many limits on your story that you can’t worry about making the story good. Sometimes you end up with a good story, but the silliness of the prompt removes all pretension and blocks.

The Prompt: Your story must include these words; ink, previously, work, breeze, seven, run, delicious, example, spontaneous, barb.

Go!

And me? Sadly, I’m not doing the challenge this year (too busy) but do leave a comment below to let me know how you do.

SADM 2018 – Day 27: Start at the End

http://storyaday.org/day-27-start-at-the-end

Julie says: Start a story that begins with the ending, then immediately jumps back in time.

e.g. “It all started 12 hours ago.”

Think of this as the way someone might shoot a heist movie: a character is being led out in handcuffs and a voiceover says, “It all started 12 weeks ago.”

(In a short story you probably need to keep the scale in hours as this means you don’t have too many scenes.)

Don’t worry too much about getting this perfect. Feel free to be cheesy. Just have fun. Leave a comment to let us know how you got on!

Go!

And me? Sadly, I’m not doing the challenge this year (too busy) but do leave a comment below to let me know how you do.

SADM 2018 – Day 26: The Sale

http://storyaday.org/day-26-the-sale

Julie says: Today’s prompt lets you practice your dialogue and thinking about communicating your characters’ motivations to the reader.

One character is trying to sell something to another character. .

This could be metaphorical: they are trying to sell them an idea.

It could be literal: they’re trying to sell them a car.

Go!

Sadly, I’m not doing the challenge this year (too busy) but do leave a comment below to let me know how you do.

SADM 2018 – Day 25: The Moral Dimension

http://storyaday.org/day-25-the-moral-dimension

Julie says: Write a story about someone whose boss is doing something contrary to the main character’s morals.

Today I want you to write a story about a character whose boss (or somebody important to them, with power over them) is doing something illegal/unethical. How will your character react?

Go!

Sadly, I’m not doing the challenge this year (too busy) but do leave a comment below to let me know how you do.

SADM 2018 – Day 24: Disappearing Act

Ironic that the day I forget to share the Story A Day May prompts should be about something that’s not there!

http://storyaday.org/day-24-disappearing-act

Julie says: Tell a story that features a disappearance

This could be an Intrigue/Idea story. At it heart it has a question, or a mystery or a big idea.

It could be the disappearance of a person, a cultural phenomenon, or of the bees, or of Arctic Ice. Or it could be something more nebulous. Your story could be serious or slapstick. What will you come up with?

Go!

Sadly, I’m not doing the challenge this year (too busy) but do leave a comment below to let me know how you do.

SADM 2018 – Day 23: New Broadcast

http://storyaday.org/10556-2

Julie says: Choose a detail that only your character would notice in this story

(This exercise is borrowed from Donald Maass’s The Emotional Craft of Fiction, a book I highly recommend.)

Think about your character’s past, so that you know what matters to your character, what background they came from.

As an example, I noticed a vase in my in-laws’ house because my parents had the same one. It was really the only notable thing about the vase! It tells you something about our relative backgrounds that our parents chose the same decor…

You might pick something with more emotional resonance: a smell, a song, a flower.

Tell a story about your character that includes a detail that tells us something more about your character.

Go!

Sadly, I’m not doing the challenge this year (too busy) but do leave a comment below to let me know how you do.

SADM 2018 – Day 22: A Rude Awakening

http://storyaday.org/day-22-a-rude-awakening

Julie says: This week I’m providing you with story starters, to give your imaginations a little kick-start.

Your character wakes up in a space they don’t recognize.

They could wake up in a white van, a locked room, or anywhere that is completely different form their everyday. This gives you the opportunity to explore your character in interesting ways.

There may be other people inside the space, outside the space, interacting with them, or not.

Have fun with this, today!

Go!

Sadly, I’m not doing the challenge this year (too busy) but do leave a comment below to let me know how you do.